I was delighted to find myself thrown straight into working life on joining RSM Tenon. I applied as part of the sandwich year in my maths degree, and as the seventh biggest UK accountancy firm, it was an attractive destination for my 12-month industrial placement as an audit assistant.
It was great to spend most of my time at different clients’ premises while performing statutory audits. The role was far more varied and ‘out there’ than I had anticipated. I worked with an audit senior, a partially or fully qualified accountant. It involved arriving at a client’s site on Monday morning and looking at audit files prepared by the client, along with key documents such as bank reconciliations and aged debtors reports.
Most of my work was on the Profit and Loss section of the accounts: sales, purchases, payroll and other profit and loss items. I also tackled areas such as cash and bank and, depending on the size, risk and nature of the company, debtors and creditors or fixed assets.
The approach taken depended on the section of the file, and on whether I was testing for under or overstatement. RSM Tenon uses a Risk Materiality Analysis document, detailing all the sections of the file and determining the sample size for each balance, based on its relationship to materiality (significant for financial statements). The Audit Senior would plan the best approach to test the required sample size and I would complete my own tests on cash & bank, sales, purchases, payroll and other P&L.
Working and communicating with the client was always crucial – and of course part of the challenge was working with clients who were very busy, or not immediately forthcoming with information. I learned how to be flexible, and how to manage time efficiently to meet the weekly deadline. I was left in no doubt that my input was important – I signed off various checklists of tailored audit questions, meeting company audit methodology and the International Standards for Auditing (ISAs).
I also completed an opinion summary, summarising my findings from each section for the Manager and Partner to review. Where needed, I then followed up on any issues before moving on to the next audit.
Support along the way
Support was excellent at all stages of my relationship with RSM Tenon. The application process was clear, allowing me to prepare properly for each stage. I applied online, answering various questions, and after some online testing was invited for interview. This interview was important, and I recommend researching the relevant areas in advance as well as pulling together some examples of the competencies listed on the website, such as determination and time management.
At the start of the year I was sent on an intense training course to learn the basics in both accounting and auditing; this was extremely useful and also gave me the chance to get to know other new starters from the firm. RSM Tenon was on hand throughout, helping me to develop during the year. Senior auditors were always willing to help and guide me through testing and through completing feedback forms for each job. This also means that I have been able to track my progress and improve upon any highlighted strengths and weaknesses.
At the outset, I had felt that this role might be suited to my capabilities and personality: a good place to gain an overall education in business, and to learn about the accountancy industry. Working with different people in different locations on a regular basis also appealed to me. By the end of the year, I was definitely pleased with the choice.
I have developed many skills such as communication, responsibility and time management and a broad range of professional skills, such as technical accountancy knowledge and how to use business specific software. Some of the most important experiences were around learning better written and verbal professional communications with colleagues – this really helped to build confidence in myself. I have become more assured in myself and my abilities.
The placement provided incomparable insights into working life. It has been instrumental in starting me upon a possible future career path as well as ensuring personal and professional development – I can highly recommend a work placement to anyone seeking real experience in a professional environment.
The sheer scope of the RSM Tenon operation gave me the kind of exposure that is very valuable in terms of future career development. I worked with public sector, leisure, property development, technology, medical and cosmetic, wholesale trade, charity and telecommunications clients. This kind of diversity was an important attraction for me, and auditing gave me an unparalleled insight into different businesses and how they function.
This was very interesting work, and I want to pursue it. Without any prior accounting knowledge I really enjoyed the challenge of learning as I worked. As a mid-sized firm, RSM Tenon gave me hands on experience across the board, rather than forcing a narrow focus, and have I ended up feeling a fully capable audit assistant. I have also been able to begin my training towards the accountancy qualification, which I hope to continue with RSM Tenon once I have completed my degree.